Monday, July 02, 2012
Speaking Of Revolutions
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
Agreeable to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole; ∥and, after some time,∥ the president resumed the chair. Mr. [Benjamin] Harrison reported, that the committee have had under consideration the declaration to them referred; but, not having had time to go through ∥the same,∥ desired leave to sit again:
Resolved, That this Congress will, to morrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration the declaration on independence.
It still took a couple more days of resolving into a committee of the whole to finally approve Thomas Jefferson's declaration of principles to announce and justify the separation, but today's when we committed, which is why John Adams thought the 2nd would have all the glory and celebration. Thus we see proven once again that the Founders were fallible and could not see into the future.
Spoeaking of which, since we've been talking about correcting errors in our Constitution, I should note that Jefferson was in Paris at the time it was devised. In November of 1787 he wrote to Col William Smith, John Adam's son-in-law:
There are very good articles in it: & very bad. I do not know which preponderate...
God forbid we should ever be 20 years without [a] rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty...
[W]hat country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted.
I have to admit, the Tea Partiers are more in tune with TJ in that context than I am right now.
Of course, Jefferson was writing before the worst excesses of the French revolution, which annoyed his friend Adams. While he never appears to have backtracked on the philosophy of frequent revolution, he did recognize that it is possible to go too far as the French did:
- 1793: In the struggle which was necessary, many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as any body, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death.
- 1795: What a tremendous obstacle to the future attempts at liberty will be the atrocities of Robespierre!
- 1817: ...the horrors of Robespierre...
- 1823: ...the first effort [at self-government] was defeated by Robespierre...
- 1824: ...the disastrous chapters of Robespierre...
Anyway, it seems to me that a mere couple of years in which some components of a popular, duly-enacted law haven't even taken effect, has been upheld by the highest court in our nation as a legitimate exercise of Congressional taxation power, contains one controversial provision that includes a fundamentally unenforceable tax amounting to pennies on a small number of people, and helps tens of millions of Americans is hardly a reason to take up arms. But your mileage may vary. Glad to see people keeping perspective.
Nothing says 'tyranny' than our representative government providing for the General Welfare.
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I wonder if the posessive "its" was spelled with the apostrophe in Jefferson's original.
Posted by: Tig Stone | Jul 2, 2012 4:59:55 PM
Heh, I wondered that myself, but was too lazy to look for the original manuscript. I wouldn't be surprised if it were a "typo" on TJ's part, but probably a transcription error.
Posted by: NTodd Pritsky | Jul 2, 2012 6:33:55 PM
I wonder if "posessive" is spelled "possessive" in our own day...
In my youth I read a fair amount of 18th-century English prose in facsimile, and found the possessive rendered "it's" about as often as "its" ... and when you think about it, the apostrophe makes a great deal of sense. But our usage has been standardized now beyond any possibility of changing it.
Posted by: Steve Bates | Jul 3, 2012 9:44:15 AM